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Lessons from John Allen Chau

TL:DR – His heart in the right place, lack of wisdom and knowledge made for some unwise choices in visiting North Sentinel. God may yet bring fruit of his visit to the island.

The whole thing:

John Allen Chau died presumably between November 16th and 17th of 2018 trying to reach the people of  North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Sentinelese are believed to be one of a few people groups on the planet to have little to zero contact with the outside world.

Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail have extensive articles on the subject, complete with pictures of his last journal entries for you to read and a timeline of events that led up to his death (I personally recommend the Daily Mail first, then The Guardian).

And despite a lie from an article on Patheos, International Christian Concern has NOT called for the prosecution of any natives.

John had visited the Andaman twice in the previous few years, and grew a genuine love and heart for the people of the area. His friends and family say that he’s had this trip planned for at least 3 years and had a genuine desire in his heart to see the Sentinelese people come to faith in Christ.

On social media (including on my own timeline), I’ve seen commentary ranging from mocking (complete with profanity) to praise (calling him a martyr). That shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read their Bible – non-believers have zero reasons to view a Christian attempting to reach an unreached people group as a ‘good thing’.  Death of missionaries on first contact with unreached tribes is also not a new thing.  Jim Elliott and four other men were killed attempting to evangelize the Huaoroni people of Ecuador.

Christianity has always been a missionary religion, as the book of Acts documents the first missionary activity of the church as it expanded throughout the Roman empire.  Men like Stephen (Acts 7) and James (Acts 12) were killed by ruling parties to try and stymie the growth of the early church. That will never change.  The call to give up one’s life to follow Christ (Luke 9:23-27) is not simply metaphorical. We see it in the persecution of the church throughout the world (especially in middle eastern countries). Matthew 28:19 is a command, not a suggestion.  Christians have an obligation to either give or go.

John’s trip to the North Sentinel Island, though well-intentioned (and rightly intentioned), raises a number of issues related to missions including possible breaking of laws (more on this later) and an overall missiology (a theology of how to do missions).

First, the command to spread the gospel has not always gone out without cultural baggage and there have been consequences.  In 1880, Britains, in the name of colonialism, kidnapped several members of the Sentinelese and traveled with them to Port Blair, a nearby inhabited port in the Andaman islands. They did so with the objective of trying to integrate (forced contact) the tribes with the modern world at that time.  Two of the tribespeople died by the time they reached port, possibly of diseases contracted by contact with the British. The British returned the survivors to their island with some gifts, but the language barrier and the forcefulness of being extracted from their land and then returned may not have registered as anything but aggression. The British (who, at that time had colonized parts of India), were looking to use some of the Andaman Islands as a penal colony. Colonization of other nations by European countries was often done in the name of ‘bringing civilization to savages’ (which often included ‘taking the land in the name of Christ’), while at the same time (as we learn from Columbus’ journals), greed, conquest and sexual license.  Our knowledge of the Sentinelese and their history outside of our contact with them is limited; we know they have had contact with neighboring tribes in the area (one anthropologist noted, when they saw members of another local tribe, they became angry).  The same anthropologist (T.N. Pandit) recently commented that he was surprised that the Sentineli killed anyone. He gave suggestions on how to approach them, also relating his own face-to-face interactions with them over several decades.

When American missionaries went west and encountered Native Tribes, they often brought their cultural assumptions (i.e. adjust your clothing to our cultural styles, have ‘Christian names’, live our particular way of life) with them and tried to equate these with the gospel. Nothing in the gospel message says you must change your name to fit a standard ‘American’ name. Nothing in the gospel message says you must change your clothing style (although total nudity would be prohibited) from your native garb to our ‘Christian American’ way of dressing.  They also included things like the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced many Native Tribes off their land (some went peacefully). European Christianity has had a mixed bag of imperialism and colonialism which have sometimes clouded the gospel message.

The relevance of these facts above is simple; in the life of a tribe which has generally eschewed contact with the outside world, legends of ‘paled skinned men’ in large boats bringing death to members of the community may linger fresh in the oral tradition of the tribe, even a century and a quarter later.  John, being a young white male, had this as a disadvantage before he got off the boat.  The last group of ‘white men’ to visit the Sentineli people (National Geographic in 1974) were also greeted with arrows.

Second, for health and safety reasons, the Indian government has (in the past) declared the island to be off-limits. “Hands off, eyes off, leave them alone and to themselves” has been the official policy.  Every few years, the Indian government sends a boat or helicopter nearby to check on the existence of the inhabitants, but since the early 2000’s, all attempts to contact and integrate the group into modern society have been abandoned (though this may well change with the policies of the current government – more on this later).  The tribe, apparently desiring to be left alone, has been isolated from the remainder of the outside world and its’ diseases and pathogens.  Just as disease was brought from Europe to the U.S. that the Native Americans had no immunity to, so too it is a great concern that when making contact with isolated peoples, that it be done safely.

I’m well aware that this was not a major concern in the past when it came to missions, but as God has enabled us to grow in our knowledge of how the human body works, we now know how easy it is for diseases and pathogens to be transmitted and take precautions.  An uncontacted tribe in the Brazillian rainforest and the Sentineli may not have had the common cold virus between them, but the westerners visiting them do. Well-meaning westerners have spread disease unintentionally to tribes and peoples without immunity to them outside of a controlled and well-planned series of contacts. The Indian government has named this as an area of concern repeatedly.

On a related note, during some of my reading, I have learned that in August of this year, the current government under Prime Minister Modi has removed the RAP (Restricted Area Permit) status from 29 of the Andaman Islands, including North Sentinel. Visiting the island is not strictly off-limits (more on the implications of this later). The Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation of 1956, however, is still in effect, making it illegal to make forced contact with people in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands who are scheduled/protected tribes (i.e. the Sentinelese and the Jarawas for example).

Missions and First Contact

How should first contact be made with a group when seeking to share the gospel ? Every missions agency may not have a sound philosophy for engaging unreached people groups. Every believer may not have studied missiology enough (I confess to be one of them) to have a solid philosophy and approach to missions and evangelism.  There are medical concerns (mentioned) as well as the physical well-being of the people involved.  Most successful groups I’ve seen go in with the purpose of serving the local community first and then sharing the gospel as they work alongside the people in building their community’s resources. The trap, however, is to bring along too much of one’s culture in the process of helping the community.

The Rahab Dilemma

Under the Protected Tribes act, the fishermen who provided material assistance for John to get to the island are being charged (his family is requesting that they drop the charges). He paid off folks to knowingly break the law and get as close (within the buffer zone) as possible without landing on the island. In addition, there was forced (not initiated by the tribespeople) contact (he met face to face with them). Yet, it was done for a good reason (evangelism).

Unlike Islam, Christianity has no doctrine of taqiyaa, so Christians are not permitted to lie during times of war or to unbelievers in the name of evangelism.  At this point, one may try to point to Rahab, the Jerichoite prostitute who hid the spies in Joshua 2 because she knew from what she’d heard that the city was given to the people of Israel by God and would fall to them. She only pleaded that her family be saved when they invaded the city (they were….and Rahab is even an ancient ancestor of Christ).

Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 praise her as being faithful to Christ for both welcoming the spies and for hiding them….but never for lying about it to the King of Jericho when he came looking for the spies.  If you’ve talked with missionaries in unsafe countries, you’ll know that there are times now when Christians in persecuted countries, under duress, have lied to public officials in order to protect other believers or their families from being sent to prison, killed or worse (tortured then killed). They’ve done so with guilty consciences, praying for forgiveness for the lie. There were situations like this in the early church as well prior to the Edit of Milan in 313. This does not excuse the lie or the moral responsibility that comes with it.

With these considerations in mind, I took a look (and a lot of reading) regarding what John Allen Chau did and what can be learned from it.  Here are my four basic observations.

1. John’s heart for missions was at the core of who he was as a Christian. This is good. He was not a ‘colonizer’.  His desire, first and foremost, was to see these people worshiping at the throne of God in their language as depicted in Revelation 7:9-10.  He has a consistent track record (even in his teens, he worked with FEMA during Hurricane Katrina and traveled to a lot of disaster areas to help out over the past decade of his life).

Non-Christians will not understand…well…most won’t.  Penn Gillette, one half of the duo of Penn & Teller, once remarked:

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

John’s journal entries (again – read The Daily Mail ‘s article and see his handwriting) demonstrate a true heart changed for Christ.  As a believer, you understand the eternal implications (John 3:18) of folks dying without Christ. You understand the implications of Romans 10:1-10. Someone must go. So you preach, you proselytize and you build relationships so you can share the gospel.  I would like to think that John was thinking that the tribespeople would accept him, he would live amongst them, learn their language, customs and ways and eventually be in a position to share the gospel with them. John took scripture seriously – He left the comfort of the US and went somewhere that he knew may well have been the place where he would be killed. He knew the danger and went anyway.

The gospel has that effect. 2000 years ago, a group of fishermen, a former tax collector, a former insurgent and some other guys were gathered together by an itinerant Jewish rabbi.  When their Teacher was arrested and killed by crucifixion, they all fled in fear, some going back to their fishing.  Days and weeks later, these men along with an extended group of followers found themselves publicly preaching the teachings of this same Rabbi without fear of these same Jewish officials.

What happened ?  Jesus changed a heart of fear to a heart of faith. They saw the resurrected Christ for themselves.  They knew that all He spoke was true and finally understood what He chose them for. They stepped forward and dealt with persecutions, attacks, slander, insults and a host of other things which make our present-day lives in America look like glory in comparison.

John Chau had that same heart.  Make no mistake. His journal entries speak in the same voice that the Apostle Paul did as he stood before Governor Festus in Acts 25:11 and again decades later in old age when he wrote from jail while awaiting execution, reflecting on his life’s work in spreading the gospel (2 Tim. 4:7). I have no doubt that I and every other true believer in Christ will meet John on the other side of this life. He seems like a pretty cool guy and is a good example of a life not wasted.

2. John’s zeal could not make up for his lack of knowledge and proper planning. Even with the training he received (he is a graduate of Oral Roberts University), his approach, as an outsider, lacked wisdom, proper planning and proper support. Indian anthropologist T.N. Pandit spent two decades attempting to establish contact with the group, slowly greeting them from a distance multiple times until they chose to come out to the boats in the lagoon area of the shore in 1991. After 1991, virtually every attempt at contact was met with hostile response.  Accidental contact (i.e. two fishermen killed when their boat drifted to the shore by accident in 2008) as well as purposeful contact (i.e. arrows shot at a helicopter checking on the people after the 2004 tsunami) have all been met with aggression.

Another large problem is that he was not sent by the local church.  Every example of missions work in scripture originates with the local church and not simply with individuals with a desire to ‘do missions work’.  Paul, Peter and all of the apostles were either sent directly by Jesus (Matthew 28:19) from the church at Jerusalem or the apostles sent others with the same goal of building communities of worshipers (church planting).  When Paul leaves the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20, it is with tears and thankfulness to God for him and his work as they walk him to his ship.  In 1 Thessalonians 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul recounts to the Thessalonians how he and Barnabus did not ask them for any funds for their living (even though they had a right to), but rather they labored for their own income so they could serve without burdening the local community. They also did this to serve as an example against idleness – if you don’t work, you don’t eat. This model of coming alongside a local community is a sound one because it gives the community and the individual(s) a chance to build a relationship. The individuals on mission to the community also get to serve the community (because no one will listen to what you have to say if you haven’t demonstrated your care for them as people first).

While I’m here, let me also mention that parachurch ministries (including missions agencies) are not substitute for the authority of the local church (1 Peter 5).  The structure of the church in scripture is consistently elders -> deacons -> laity.  Deacons serve and coordinate. Elders rule, teach and keep watch over the flock.  Hebrews 13:7 is a reminder of this as well.  God put these ‘wisdom systems’ in place to keep well-meaning believers from going out on their own and getting into trouble.   Elders appoint other elders – Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5 – you don’t appoint yourself as an elder. Likewise, as with the example of Paul, missionaries are sent out by the local church, not by the individual following what they believe to be a call from God.

You believe you have a ‘call’ for a vocation from God ? Tell it to the elders, have them pray on it and if it is from God (if it is biblical), He will set you on the path toward it with the blessing of the elders and their support.  He will raise up the infrastructure for you to accomplish this vocational call properly and legally.

If not, you may be full of zeal, but that zeal needs some knowledge, planning, support and maturity before you end up on the beach of an isolated island.

3. He broke laws in order to bring about good. This goes back to the Rahab dilemma I mentioned above. Is it right to do wrong that good may come ? There are times when civil disobedience is right and biblical. Christians in the 1950’s and 1960’s recognized this and followed Dr. King’s lead on non-violent sit-ins and boycotts of businesses in an effort to end segregation. The church grows in areas where Christianity is suppressed (i.e. China, Saudi Arabia and China) because believers gather to worship as commanded by scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I would submit, however, that these situations are different.  Church congregations had been established in these areas and these churches today are supported by local churches and missions agencies. John would’ve been wise, in my opinion, to work through a local missions agency that was working on establishing peaceful contact with the Sentinelese. Several such organizations (i.e. India Missions Association) exist and are already established enough to serve as a ‘command base’ to begin the initiative, including working with the government on a legal basis to establish contact.

I cannot commend John paying fishermen and a network of people to get access to the island illegally (legally, everyone is required to remain 3 nautical miles away from the island at all times).  He did so knowingly (per his journal entries).

4. His work may yet bear fruit in years to come.  He went.  He risked.  John Piper, in opening chapter 5 (pages 79 and 80) of his book Don’t Waste Your Life, states the following:

If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.
I define risk very simply as an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury. If you take a risk you can lose money, you can lose face, you can lose your health or even your life. And what’s worse, if you take a risk, you may endanger other people and not just yourself. Their lives may be at stake. Will a wise and loving person, then, ever take a risk? Is it wise to expose yourself to loss? Is it loving to endanger others? Is losing life the same as wasting it?
It depends. Of course you can throw your life away in a hundred sinful ways and die as a result. In that case, losing life and wasting it would be the same. But losing life is not always the same as wasting it. What if the circumstances are such that not taking a risk will result in loss and injury? It may not be wise to play it safe. And what if a successful risk would bring great benefit to many people, and its failure would bring harm only to yourself? It may not be loving to choose comfort or security when something great may be achieved for the cause of Christ and for the good of others. (Piper, pp. 79-80)
Since John’s last journal entry was signed Soli Deo Gloria, I’m inclined to believe that somewhere in his personal belongings is a copy of this book, with these pages and this paragraph highlighted or underlined. He lived his theology out, rightly.
In my own reading on this issue (most of the links I post in this article have been my references), it seems that his encounter may bear some fruit in the area of anthropological studies later. Perhaps, God may raise up a Christian anthropologist at a time when the government is willing to make contact with the tribes and the tribes themselves are willing to connect with the outside world on a limited basis.  Perhaps a man or woman may be raised up to go (again) in this way.
In addition, as mentioned above, the recent (August 2018) revocation of the Restricted Area Permit requirement for North Sentinel island may yet  provide another opportunity for someone to make contact with the tribe positively between now and 2022 when the temporary reprieve on the act expires.  The government has opened 29 of the islands in the area up for tourism to bolster the economy and help bring the already-contacted tribes into modernity, but a window may now be open for the establishment of a church among the tribal populations already contacted.
We will pray and we will see.
Meanwhile, pray for the family of John, that they may be comforted at this time, knowing that He is in glory and worshiping before the throne of God.  His body (according to the fishermen who took him there) is lying in the open on the beach, presumably as a warning for any future visitors to stay away.
Pray for future missionaries, to whom the job of watering and planting will fall. Pray that God give them strength, wisdom and resources to complete the task that John started.
Pray for the Sentinelese people.  As with the Huaoroni, they may be a society whose first response to outsiders is violence.  As God changed the hearts of the Huaoroni, may He also change the hearts of the Sentinelese to be open to the gospel.

Pro-Life or Pro-Birth ? Observations and Answers

Just a quickie.

The usual argument is “pro-lifers are really only pro-birth. they don’t care about children once they get here.

I’m sure you’ve heard this parroted repeatedly.

It’s a lie.

Repeating a lie over and over again still doesn’t make it true.

There are currently (2018) over 13,000 pregnancy centers (pro-life) across the US. Please note the comparison to the number of Planned Parenthood centers in each region.   Yes, they do outnumber them. We’ll discuss what these centers do in a little bit.

There ARE republicans who only pay lip-service to the pro-lifers they court for votes (just as there are democrats who only pay lip-service to black folks they court for votes).  Usually, when these guys do something anti-life, conservative pro-life folks call them on it.   This article from very liberal news outlet The Slate shows the reaction from pro-lifers when republicans in congress tried to scrap the adoption credit.   These quote (among others) from Al Mohler and Russell Moore summarize the issue well:

“There will be, in effect, an economic incentive to abort those babies,” the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, told listeners of his popular daily podcast on Thursday, before the reversal was announced. The Republican Party “puts its moral character at risk by putting forward of tax reform proposal that would disincentivize the adoption of children.” The Susan B. Anthony list, an anti-abortion PAC, issued a statement critical of the provision; Focus on the Family said it has “reached out to every channel available to us” to save the credit. A blogger for the conservative site Hot Air summed up the social-conservative response to the proposal: “What the hell are they thinking?”

“The GOP claims to be the pro-family, pro-life party, but they are funding Planned Parenthood and killing an adoption tax credit that literally helps families adopt children,” wrote Erick Erickson, urging his readers to “shut down Congress’s phone lines” with calls to keep the credit in place. Russell Moore, the influential policy head of the Southern Baptist Convention, echoed that argument and called the credit’s loss “insane”:

Looks like the House leadership wants to double down on removing adoption tax credit, all while funding Planned Parenthood. This move hurts children, adopting families and actually costs the govt $ in the long term. Insane.Russell Moore (via Twitter)

Notice the priorities here – not just birth, but adoption, life, decent quality of life, marriages and families.

I appreciate the article on The Slate because it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a liberal news outlet actually tell the truth about what pro-life folks have as priorities and how we decry anti-life policies even when they come from the republican party.

A quick word or three on these pregnancy centers.  Are they only concerned with keeping women from having an abortion ?  Not hardly.  They are concerned with helping the woman who chooses life for her unborn to have a decent life.  And for those women who are post-abortive and have problems dealing with their emotions and such….they offer support for them too.   A few good examples of this:

Notice that the services offered include job and housing referrals (and placements in some cases), parenting classes, prenatal care, testing and examinations, adoption referrals, etc….. FREE.  Again… the pro-life position is and has been concerned with more than just the birth of the child.

But repeating a lie often enough…..

“Well, maybe that’s how it is where YOU are, but I don’t see that happening here.” (I’ve been told this once or twice)

My response is that maybe it’s because you’ve chosen to surround yourself with media and people who only believe what you believe and you get your information from sources that don’t tell you the truth about opposing views. This is the ‘echo chamber’ effect.

That brings up another important point: liberals (especially Planned Parenthood, NARAL and like organizations) often LIE about what happens in pro-life pregnancy centers.  Not only do they lie about pro-life centers, but since they donate heavily to democratic mayors and city council officials, they lobby to create laws which either keep out, discourage or limit pro-life clinics from opening up in the same areas as abortion clinics.

No, I’m not making these charges up. Here’s an article from 2013:

Cities like Austin, Baltimore and New York have tried regulating centers with ordinances requiring them to post signs stating that they do not provide abortions or contraceptives, and disclosing whether medical professionals are on-site. Except for San Francisco’s, the laws were blocked by courts or softened after centers sued claiming free speech violations. Similar bills in five states floundered. Most legal challenges to “Choose Life” license plates failed, although a North Carolina court said alternate views must be offered.

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll remember when Planned Parenthood tried to use anti-racketeering laws against pro-life groups who gathered to pray outside of abortion clinics.  The Supreme Court struck down this misuse of the RICO laws in 2006.

They also lie about their own services and activities. They say abortion are only a very small percentage of their services, but they come to this conclusion deceptively (a friend called it  “lying with numbers”). The procedure itself is a service, the medication is a service, the anesthesia is a service, the examination is a service, the prescription is a service….so out of those 5 things, only 1 is the abortion.

Again, here’s an article on the topic from a liberal news source:

I assume by now you’ve checked the links above. So with that in mind, read the following:

The objective is pretty simple: liberals have always been interested in silencing opposing views. Liberalism (modern liberalism) is egalitarian on including multiple ethnicities, but totalitarian when it comes to viewpoint agreement. They don’t want to hear from opposing viewpoints (i.e. and will routinely commit the strawman fallacy (choosing an exaggerated or inaccurate version of view of their opponent’s view and ignoring stronger arguments that make their position look weak).  The echo chamber effect is in place for a reason – it reinforces the status quo and helps maintain political power.

Again, these are things anyone can figure out simply from general observation. The current democratic left has gradually purged their ranks of pro-life democrats since the 90’s. Any who choose to speak up get censured and marginalized.  Read here:

Last summer, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez publicly proclaimed that “every Democrat” should support abortion rights, prompting an outcry that the party was implementing a “litmus test.” Democrats for Life arranged a meeting with Perez shortly after the dust-up but left still feeling like the skunk at the party. Asked about the DNC’s abortion stance in the 2018 midterms, spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said the party’s top goal this year is electing Democrats and “stopping Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights and the middle class. There is no doubt that Republicans are the biggest threat to women’s health, and we will work with all Democrats to stop them.”

Anti-abortion Democrats say they—and the voters they represent—aren’t just marginalized on this one issue: They say Democratic pollsters, fundraisers and vendors don’t want to work with anti-abortion candidates for fear of losing favor and business with the rest of the party. “If you’re trying to raise money on the national level, it gets very, very difficult,” Stupak said in an interview during the Democrats for Life convention. “There will be no money. There will be no help.” Email service vendors and pollsters frequently turn down Democrats for Life, according to the Democrats for Life president, Janet Robert.

And there are Democrats who insist that anti-abortion candidates shouldn’t get elected at all even if they have a “D” after their name—or at least that the party’s members should be defined by progressive values, as Representative Luis Gutiérrez said when he endorsed a primary challenger to Lipinski earlier this year (Lipinski prevailed). Outside the Radisson hotel, Colorado state Representative Leslie Herod was among those participating in a small protest led by the liberal group ProgressNow Colorado, which set up a truck with a giant sign calling abortion access a “progressive value.” Democrats for Life’s intentions are “quite nefarious. They’re looking for ways to divide us as a party before the next election cycle,” Herod said. “These aren’t core values that you can just pick and choose.”

The DNC is perfectly fine with run down cities, crime and low employment in black neighborhoods, in spite of their normal pandering to black communities in public. Those situations make people feel desperate and when pregnancy happens, they push and encourage people toward abortion FIRST. DNC operatives and candidates swoop in with “White Savior Complex” in tow and tell black folks and other minorities that they need abortion so they can be free to provide for themselves.

That money (from abortion) feeds abortion groups like Planned Parenthood (who donate to NARAL and similar groups). PP and NARAL donate money to candidates who help keep them in business. The federal government subsidizes PP. PP and NARAL donate some of that money back to the DNC to help elect candidates who will keep them in business.  Ad infinitum, ad murderum, ad re-electium.

Blood money.

And if you’re actually pro-black (and not pretend pro-black, where you support things which negatively impact the black community), approximately 17-18 million black lives have mattered to the abortion industry as profit, not as people.

Blood money.

And if you’re a feminist (specifically 3rd and 4th wave), roughly 51% of all abortion victims are female.

It’s easy to be for abortion when you’re already born…..

(But it’s the republican’s fault.)

There’s more than could be addressed here, but I’m running into my 1800 1900 2100 2300 2500-word limit.

Reading the scriptures, what other kind of world did you expect ?  In the ancient Roman empire, newborn children (mostly boys) were thrown away into the sewers underneath of brothels because boys didn’t make as much money for the establishment. Same motivations: greed, sex and convenience. Human abortion today should be no surprise.  We’ve just sanitized the language and sought to kill them before they leave the womb instead of afterward.

Abortionists need the gospel. Women who have had abortions need forgiveness, compassion and the gospel. People who’ve promoted abortion need the gospel.  1 Corinthians 6:11 states “and such were some of you” after listing a host of sins including murder, greed and sexual immorality in 6:9-10. Think of that carefully for a moment. “Some” of the members of the church of Corinth may have been former prostitutes who killed their babies out of convenience to their careers.

Christ changes hearts and offers forgiveness for even the sin of murdering your unborn child, whether you’re the guy who paid and pressured his girlfriend/wife to abort the child, the woman who decided yourself or the doctor who performed the procedure.

Let me push the point home: sin is a violation of God’s laws for human behavior. All sin, whether heterosexual sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, greed, gluttony, murder (and abortion is murder), hatred, etc…. creates a debt between the sinner and God. God is holy and just as a Judge; He does not ‘wink’ at sin and let it slide. God being holy presents a problem for humanity. As a Perfect Judge, He will not let any sin slide. It will be punished. Hitler ? Yep. He will have a day before God and answer for his murders. The kid who lied on you in 3rd grade ? Yes, that kid too.  The woman who lied on Emmett Till and got him lynched ?  She’s 83 now.  Her day before her Creator is coming sooner than later. And all those moments you lied, stole, held hatred in your heart as a grudge against others…. you too will answer.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 remind us of this:

 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (ESV)

No one gets away with anything, even if you don’t see them get justice now. There are eternal consequences in play here.

This is why Jesus Christ came; to both live a perfect life that you and I have not lived and to die in our place as a sacrifice and payment for sin that you and I could not pay (because we’re not perfect).

The Bible calls upon the individual (you reading this) to repent (meaning turn from – the same way you’d turn from driving to Maine when you meant to drive to Florida, but you took I-95 north instead of south) and believe (place your whole faith, trust and reliance in/upon) in Jesus Christ and His perfect sacrifice as the payment for your sins.   An individual finds forgiveness for these sins by placing their whole faith and trust in Christ as Lord the same way one places their whole faith and trust in a parachute to open and keep them from dying when skydiving.  It means coming before Christ right where you sit and read this blogpost, acknowledging to Him that you have indeed violated His laws and believing upon Him as your righteousness before God the Father. When you do this, His perfect life is counted on your behalf so that when you stand before God, you will be counted as though you lived Christ’s perfect life and never sinned.

The cost ? Your life. It will no longer be your own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). You are now responsible for following, believing and obeying what He taught (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the Bible, Christ forgives murderers (the Apostle Paul consented to Christians being murdered before Christ changed His heart), former prostitutes (Mary), the greedy (Matthew), and more. Don’t let self-righteousness or self-loathing and depression (you are not the ‘worst sinner’) keep you from Christ. Repent and believe the gospel today. That’s good news.

If you need help, feel free to contact me via twitter and I’ll point you to the right people to help you out.

(2462 words in case you’re wondering)

Blocks, Blindness, Deafness and Bridges: Addressing James White and Rich Pierce

Update: a mutual friend of James White and Rich Pierce and I told me the following:

Just an observation:While Rich’s interaction with you deserves observation and comment, I think it’s a separate issue to what James said. Conflating the two mistakes Rich for James. They may work together but Rich goes to a different church and often has differing opinions than Dr. White.

You were blocked by Rich. And I think that does need addressing.


Fair enough. I was actually blocked by both (found out that Rich controls twitter feed for both). For the reader: while I address both men in this post, be mindful of when I’m addressing one or the other. While I believe (per my observation of their postings) that both are in agreement on this topic, I could be wrong.  I thought I did a good job of separating the two, but may not have done so well enough. Feedback welcome.


The Sovereignty of God is a funny thing to watch play out, especially when you’re in the middle of it.

So I decide to jump back into blogging/online discussions and interactions. I’ve literally been out of the way since about 2010 because BlackCalvinist needed to sit down, chill out and rest for a bit. 2005-2010 BlackCalvinist had a reputation for being very biblically accurate and occasionally very harsh and non-loving in his presentation. Some of that reputation is justified; I’ve been known to degenerate a conversation to talking about my opponent’s mother being so fat she’s on both sides of the family. The snark and sarcasm ran deep with me (and still does to a degree).

Fast-forward to 2016. My wife has mellowed me out. My church has done the same. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past six years away from the internet – occasional discussions on FB and a few videos here and there, but generally nothing consistent. Life Doctrine Music has eTumbleweeds rolling through it and TCDC only has had 3-4 significant posts since 2010.

Long story short: no internet issues or drama. None. And I’m trying to keep it that way.

Recently, James R. White, who I’ve repeatedly said (even to him) is my favorite author , has been under fire for some comments he made about a young black teen he caught on his dash cam flipping off the police and littering. Those comments were deleted shortly afterward, but the internet never forgets.

In the interest of letting folks speak for themselves, you need to do some reading and listening to catch up:

Dr. White’s original comments (saved to a pdf file, but readily found on various websites on the internet, although I know someone has a screen shot of it….): James White – Original Comments

Ekemini Uwan (M.Div student at WTS) responds here:

Jemar Tisby and the good folk at RAAN did a first podcast on the issue:

White responds to Ekemini’s original post here (and also on’s official blog):

I will come back to this post in a bit as the basis of White’s argumentation is found here.

White also did an entire podcast with a blurb at the end discussing what reconciliation is according to Colossians 1:

Jemar Tisby and company over at RAAN responded with another podcast:

Marcus Ortega responds to White over at Reformed Margins:

To which White responded with:

Since then, RAAN and Reformed Margins have released additional blogposts talking directly to the issues involved.

The rest of the reformed world is noticing as well.

Dan DeWitt from Southern Seminary hit the overall issue in passing:

Tim Challies chimed in as well on a larger-but-related problem (read the articles):

The article by Marcus Ortega was shared by a friend of mine and I then decided to share it on my timeline. I agreed – the good doctor did indeed miss a good opportunity to dialogue and communicate more effectively. I’m used to seeing Doc engage those on the other side of a discussion with him, so this was very VERY out of character. I’d been warned by a few people that he’d been rebuffing brothers in Christ who approached him to discuss the issue (some were willing to fly out and talk with him in person).

A little background is in order: I came to know the works of Dr. White back in the late 90’s starting with The King James Only Controversy. Many of his other works including The Roman Catholic Controversy, Mary: Another Redeemer and The Mormon Controversy, have all benefited me much in ministry over the years. The Potter’s Freedom is actually the book (alongside of Arthur Custance’s “The Sovereignty of Grace”) that helped me to understand and see the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace back in December of 2000.

I actually had a small stint as an op in his IRC channel, #prosapologian in the early 2000’s (some of you might remember me as OS_X or Xarminian). I’ve interacted with Doc, watched him interact with others over time and always appreciated the way he would actually interact with his opponents (especially Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong). So with all of that said, I’m not some random trouble maker (or any kind of trouble maker for that matter).

Back to the present. We share multiple friends in common, so Rich Pierce (president of Alpha and Omega Ministries) pops in on my post (it was public) to comment.

From this point, you can read the entire exchange here:

Caught up ? Good.

pic1Let’s focus on Rich’s interaction with me for a minute.

Now I know I’m not crazy. Several people hit me up privately thinking that threat to contact elders was a bit out of line. I’m thankful one friend spoke up immediately about the incident.

In light of everything that’s been said about Dr. White, right or wrong, I figured instead of making a public deal about the comment, I’d contact Rich privately. I wrote him the following message:


I’m not the only one who thought that his threat to contact elders could be read incorrectly as a strong-arm tactic. One friend commented (name withheld):

Friend: So… Is Rich saying he’d contact the elders on you? Or am I reading that incorrectly. Tell me I am… I’m re-reading….

Me: I’ve already contacted him privately and told him that his post will get read as “white man trying to silence any criticism by intimidation” and that he should remove it.

Friend: chile because that’s how I read it. that’s EXACTLY how I read it.

Friend: And that threat has been used against me too…why, man? sigh…. I don’t know if he meant it like that, but…it’s so sad…..Someone did that to me during the Trayvon Martin situation

Me: I’m really REALLY holding back. I’m even typing slow.

Friend: I say just let it be.. seriously you already know the answer to this..

(For the record, more friends contacted me privately as well.)

Last thing a white guy being accused of being racist or insensitive needs is to get perceived as racist or insensitive based on one post.

What I was expecting was “Hey, I deleted my post. I figured there was a better way to respond to this. I didn’t want to seem like I was threatening you or trying to intimidate you. Call it a flub in communication.

What I got was blocked with all comments apparently deleted. Of course, the internet never forgets (hence, the PDF file of the initial exchange).

So….of course, I mention publicly that the good Mr. Rich has deleted his posts.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one expecting a more mature response from Rich, as the responses that follow my initial post show. The post is still up – you can read it yourself from here, as none of my friends or myself have edited or deleted anything.

Speaking of which, Rich posted this immediately after (with commentary from some of his friends):

Rich Pierce’s post on his timeline

Please make sure you note the discussion and the attempts by some of our common friends to give Rich the benefit of the doubt. One of them (as you can read) ends up blocked.

As an FYI, both posts are public on FB. Google has already indexed them.

Here’s the original Post on FB, beginning with me announcing that I’d been blocked. Read onward from here.  Two of my friends attempt to respectfully engage Dr. White on Twitter…. again, you can read the convo and see their screen shots. A little further down, you’ll see two of my friends –  Mike and Dave – try to dialogue with Dr. White on Twitter.  Luke (who commented on FB) also gets blocked.

The entire experience has been more than a bit disappointing. I’ve never known JRW or Rich Pierce to not engage folks in conversation or run from conversations where people have approached them respectfully and in an irenic fashion.


Of course, this is where the nice BlackCalvinist steps aside and the polemical BlackCalvinist steps up.

The initial issue I and others had with Dr. White’s comments were that he was completely graceless in his observations and future predictions for this boy. Ekemini and others pointed that out repeatedly. He, in effect, ignored the fact that this young teen boy was still made in the image of God and simply reduced him to a throw-away set of statistics. The fact that he continued to double-down on them and ignore/rebuff the multiple godly men who approached him privately only to argue with a female M.Div student on social media is unsettling.

(I am a complimentarian – I will not, as a grown man, skip discussions with men who approach me to go argue with a woman, regardless of their education level)

This is not the James White we’re all used to seeing.

The James White we’re used to seeing put up a careful video blog on how to talk to Muslims in a fashion that seeks to win the soul of the individual. The James White we’re used to seeing wrote words that almost moved people to tears when he described the deep spiritual darkness he encountered every year he visited Salt Lake City to witness to Mormons. Where was all of this grace and care and hope in his description of the boy in the video ? Where was his prayer for the power of Christ to step in and change this boy’s heart from authority-hating and God-hating to God-honoring ? Where were the prayers for his mother (since he is assumed by Dr. White to probably be without a father) to help point him to godly men ?

Even more disturbing (and one person posted in the comments to him on Facebook) was the Pharisee-like, rose-colored glasses description of his own time period growing up, as though the sins of littering and contempt for authority only came into existence after his childhood was complete. As a student of history and culture (it overlaps with my professional job as a music instructor), the 1962-1980 time period in the country was filled with just as much turmoil, upheaval, contempt for authority, etc…. as the present. You and I are only separated by a decade in age. What made you to differ from the unsaved masses around you, Dr. White ?

Dr. White’s initial response to the first criticisms (and Rich Pierce deciding to follow along) consisted of creating an assumption based off one sentence, creating a term (racial gnosticism) and strawman attacking those who disagreed with him as violating a ‘colorblind’ interpretation of Galatians 3:28. He (wrongly) says that his opponents are choosing to define themselves first by race/ethnicity – a charge unsubstantiated by any of the blogposts of any of the individuals involved. If I didn’t see it, I’d have thought this Dave Hunt-level of argumentation came from…well…. Dave Hunt.

You can see it for yourself here:

Notice carefully:  his argumentation is based on his own faulty, non-supported assumption in the sentence “This seems to indicate a primacy of race, not a primacy of gospel.”  How he got that from Ekemini’s actual definition of what she meant by it, I have no idea.  Ekemini wrote what a “racial cost-benefit analysis” consisted of and nothing in it consisted of a “primacy of race”:

“Whenever there is a social media post, story, or an incident involving race, as a person of color, I must do a racial cost-benefit analysis.

On the cost side, I measure the psychological, emotional, and sometimes, physiological toll it would take on my well-being, depending on the magnitude of the racial event.

On the benefit side, I measure the possibility of a teachable moment, the chance to change false narratives, and show how the gospel bears practical implications for racism, always with the hope that much fruit would come as a result. After completing my analysis, I determined the benefit outweighed the cost.”

Again, no “primacy of race” in this statement, but White makes up an accusation as he goes (this is called the straw man fallacy) and runs with it, pastes it on all of his critics and then dismisses them. No, Dr. White, you have done nothing other than attack a position you created in your head. This is academically dishonest.

Rich Pierce doesn’t fare any better. On his post on my timeline, he enters the post defensive and argumentative, repeating the same fallacious application of Galatians 3:28, as if Galatians 3:28 erases ethnicity from existence or even being mentioned. He then goes on to say that anyone who defines themselves by the color of their skin is a racist (mind you, he had no problems with James defining the young boy by his skin color).

Rich says he got angry because I told him what his words may be interpreted as. Yet, at least two of own friends took it the exact same way and even encouraged him to contact my elders (to be fair, one backtracked quickly when confronted with stuff he didn’t know….be quick to read and slower to speak, Jeff). My suggestion to him privately apparently had some merit!



No, Mr. Pierce, you don’t get to strong-arm threaten me with possible church discipline, even though you tried to backtrack with Dale. I tagged my senior pastor immediately for multiple reasons. Top among them is that as an ordained deacon in the PCA, I have large amount of responsibility (per 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1) before God to live with integrity. I am a LOT more careful with my words over the past three years, but rest assured – nothing to hide here and I don’t have a low view of the church, contra one or two of your posters. If you unblock or send one of your friends over to the original thread, you will also see where I tagged three additional elders from my church. If you’d like to contact any of them via telephone, contact me and I will put us all on conference call. I believe getting elders involved in this discussion may actually be beneficial.

You also don’t get to be offended when I tell you that others may be offended at your tone and wording. What you should do, as an ministry leader (and probably an elder, since I saw a few sermons from you online) is simply fess up that you took things wrong or that your own tone could have been better (again, that’s what I was expecting from you, which is why I contacted you and said you may want to respond differently), especially given the fact that I and everyone else in the original post approached you as brotherly as possible. You came into the post throwing around threats and accusations. You may have missed that in the midst of being angry and defensive.

You also don’t get to play the shell game with terminology. Redefining ‘racism’ to be anyone who defines themselves by their skin color is academically dishonest and poor argumentation. Dr. White wrote in his initial post: “In case anyone has not noticed, I am white. Scottish white. Like the Scots in the kilts charging the British at Stirling white.” By your own words then, Dr. White would be classified as a racist.

“Well of course he didn’t mean it that way! It’s just a descriptor!”

See last sentence and apply it. You are out of line (and engaging in a logical fallacy) in attempting to paint anyone who acknowledges that different biological ethnicities exist as a racist. Christian love does not attribute evil motives to those in the body over a disagreement like this. Christian integrity also seeks to deal truthfully (1 Cor. 13:6) with positions it disagrees with. You and Dr. White have not dealt truthfully with those you disagree with when representing their positions. You have created imaginary “racial gnostics” and attacked them.

The Root Of The Issue

While I will not assign white privilege or inherent racism to either man (I believe these ‘answers’ are too simplistic and ultimately not applicable in this case), I will point out a simple truth: we all have blind spots due to the noetic effects of the fall. Adam and Eve, when confronted by God in the garden, ran and hid themselves in Genesis 3. When confronted up close (seriously….where are you going to run from God ?), Adam blame-shifted to God….”this woman YOU gave me”, as Adam ignored his own immediate blind spots – it was he who abdicated his responsibilities as husband in taking the fruit and following the lead of his wife.

Blind spots.

The Christian life is a life-length marathon to overcome those blind spots. For some of us, it’s eschatology. It’s why you can have can sit Ken Gentry, Darrell Bock and John Piper on the same stage and they come to different conclusions on the details of the end times. For others, it’s reformed theology. John MacArthur called Wesley a “confused Calvinist”, since Wesley often wrote in his journals that he did not believe he was regenerate, even though in the same journal entries he would show signs of and the fruits of a regenerate life.

Dabney and Edwards wrote spectacular theological bodies of work that have been referenced again and again. Both men had a gift for taking the complex ideas of scripture and explaining it in a way that the layman could easily access. But Dabney stumbled at the imago dei when he supported the chattel slavery practices of Virginia (and in general). How’d he miss that ? Edwards went back and forth on the issue during the course of his life, dying still a slave owner (he did not free his slaves in his will). But his son became an abolitionist. The fog of blindness was starting to lift, apparently; enough to influence his son.

Those blind spots may hit at some uncomfortable areas – most white folks I know are quietly terrified of being called racist or even anything near to racist. They genuinely try to treat people as people and are ashamed of the segregationist past of the US.  So instead of pointing out/noticing differences, they go to the opposite extreme of ignoring/minimizing any differences between themselves and others in an effort to be egalitarian. The well-meaning refrain is “I don’t even see color!”

They run like Usain Bolt from these conversations and become instantly defensive to anyone and anything that may touch their “uncomfort” zones. They’re not familiar with the issues, the people, and what appears to them to be a whole separate ‘culture and language’. They don’t know how to talk and are afraid of what to say because it may be taken wrong. So they stay silent when they should speak up or they say things which are taken wrong because of tone or bad wording. Sometimes, they do believe and follow narratives about black people that they learn from the media (conservative or other).

Let me offer you some advice I picked up last past weekend (weekend of April 1). My wife and I spent this last weekend at the Weekend to Remember Conference at Skytop Lodge in the Poconos. Beautiful area – peaceful. One of the speakers – I believe it was Tim Downs – gave us an example of how familiarity breeds contempt and impatience. He said that years ago, there was a study done where some people asked for directions in a metropolitan area – initially with an obviously American accent from that area/region. Those people were treated a bit less friendly and with more impatience. Those same people went out and feigned different accents from different nationalities, again asking for directions. As the people appear to be more ‘alien and stranger’ to them, the study found that people were more patient, detailed and kind with the directions they gave. The exhortation was that husbands should be at least this patient with their wives.

I think there’s application here too. You came in ready to report people to elders, throwing around terms and telling us that they aren’t just buzzwords. You wouldn’t do that if you were a missionary overseas in an African country (or an Asian country). You’d be a lot more patient, kind, and loving. Maybe it’s because I live in America and you’re already familiar (via whatever narrative you’ve been following….that’ll be tackled in the post after this one) with ‘black issues’ via all those statistics you cited, so you figured nothing else was needed.

On Monday when this all took place, Rich Pierce attempted to burn a bridge over a disagreement. He and Dr. White are scared. They may hide it with anger and supposed righteous indignation, but both are scared. Anyone paying attention can see that the quality of exegetical discussion and polemical approach given by Dr. White in his responses (video and written) has been of a far lower than any of his exchanges with Muslims, Mormons and even with Jehovah’s Witness apologist, Martin Smart.

(remember this post ? This is when I contacted you because I was ‘stuck’ on John 15 as a new Calvinist –

These conversations may be new territory and they don’t know how to respond. They may be especially scared since Doc believes that his words have already been twisted. So they run, screaming at the top of their lungs so they can’t hear. They attack before they can be attacked. The problem with running, of course is that others look at you and say “if you haven’t done anything wrong, why are you running ?”

While I will call you both out on what appears to be hypocrisy in your approach, actions and dealings, I will also pray for both of you to be convicted and publicly repent of your approach, your actions and attitude. I do not believe you are both ‘racists’ (some of your supporters, not so much based on their posts…). I do believe this is simply unfamiliar territory for you and you haven’t learned how to listen, empathize and communicate yet. And because it becomes so personal when we broach this topic (can’t escape the culture we live in), you’re both the skittish equivalent of startled deer. Startled deer fight back hard and they also run.

So the same question I asked you in the post still stands.

Instead of “listening to respond”, you could listen to understand and then respond in a brotherly fashion instead of as opponents and enemies.

Are you more concerned about winning the argument or winning the brother/sister ?

This is called a bridge. Walk across it instead of trying to burn it.

That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree. But it means we don’t demonize each other as you’ve sought to do. The basis of reconciliation of any kind for us is the gospel. So I appeal to you both as a brother in Christ – repent, sit at the table with your brethren and have discussions with them. You will grow and so will they.


Three small postscripts:

We’re all using (even you) the word “race” to describe linked/related ethnic, biological and cultural differences.  We know full well there’s only one ‘race’ – human. We’re using the word ‘race’ because it’s the word we’re stuck with. Ekemini pointed this out in her article on RAAN, so has Trillia Newbell in her book United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. So has John Piper.

There’s a lot more to write here. I’ll be addressing the topic both on video on my YouTube channel in the near future as well as on my main blog at Theologically Correct dot Com.  I do have an addendum post for this that I’ll be adding shortly (it’ll be a new post) that will deal with some additional observations over the past week on this topic, especially since a few new articles (helpful ones) have come out since then.

Featured Image Photo Credit: AP Photo/Pioneer Press, Brandi Jade Thomas. Cars are strewn on the collapsed portion of the Interstate 35W bridge, which stretches between Minneapolis and St. Paul, after it collapsed Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour.

Meditation on the Sovereignty of God: Never Abstract and Theoretical.

I can’t share all that’s been going on with me over the past 72 hours. My wife and I drove the 11 hours to Nashville and our family requires much prayer at the moment.

I may be beating the same drum again, but it needs to be said. The sound theology that so many people turn their nose up to during the days of sunshine is designed by God for the benefit of the believer when the storms come.

Sound theology doesn’t take the pain away. That’s not its’ purpose.

What it does is ground you in reality.

Romans 8:28-39, the doctrine of election, the perseverance of the saints and the rest of the doctrines of grace aren’t simply theoretical ideas that have no basis or real impact on the life of the everyday believer.  They are comfort when hard times come.

You see, every true believer defaults back to a position similar or identical to reformed theology when trials hit.

They know God is wiser than our desires (thanks for the reminder RaRa). And so when they have done all that they can do to fix the situation, they default back to trusting God in His infinite wisdom to do what seems right to Him. They may pray for deliverance and relief from the situation, but know full well that if their prayers are not answered in the affirmative, God is still good….and God is still God.

At times when most people would lose all hope, true Christians have hope. They rely and trust upon God. They acknowledge simple things about God: His goodness, His omniscience, His power and ability to rescue…and deep underneath it all, they know.

Romans 8:28-30 again. God is for me.  As a believer, I may endure all sorts of trials – even down to persecution and death at the hands of my persecutors (vv. 33-36). Think of the implications of that closely.  And the promise I have that God is for me is seen in the fact that He gave up the most valuable possession in the universe to Him – He gave Himself.

God the Father, who loves His son, gave His Son. His Son who did no wrong, took the penalty for my wrongdoing.

If God is capable of doing this, then Him choosing me, calling me to salvation, paying the penalty for my sin on the cross, preserving me, sanctifying me and eventually glorifying me is not an impossibly big deal.

And I take this promise and feed on it for comfort during times like these. I realize that God has not only called, saved, sanctified me, but also others.  And when those others are enduring their own pain, I point them to these promises as a source of comfort and hope.

No, the pain doesn’t ‘not happen’. Every day is not a Friday. Every day can’t be a Friday. Joel Osteen’s book is full of lies and is nothing more than paganism and selfishness wrapped in fake Christianese with a few misquoted scriptures tossed in. If your ‘BEST life’ is now, then your next life will be in hell.  God never designed the Christian life to be free of pain or struggle. But He did design it to be full of hope and joy even in the midst of tribulation and trial.

So I rest in the Sovereignty of God  and trust Him. The Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (Gen. 18:26), even when my finite, limited-understanding, easily moved and changed mind and emotions don’t understand why things have to happen the way they do when they do.

Pain, then, becomes a beacon pointing us back to the true and living God for comfort, and not simply our friends & family. It also points us away from things like alcohol, drugs and other destructive things that provide a false sense of temporary comfort. Suffering becomes an opportunity for trust, not dismay.  Nothing less than a God who is both Sovereign and in control of all human events (including, but not limited to earthquakes, death, famine, marriages, joy, celebrations, and accidents) is able to promise Romans 8:28-30.  He can be trusted. Nothing less than a God who is carries out election, calling to salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification is able to promise and carry out Romans 8:38-39. We don’t serve a God who simply wishes well for us or thinks well for us like a cheerleader on the sidelines watching the game.

Never theoretical. Never abstract. Always real. Because God is real, life is real and pain is real.

What are you resting on ?

Trust God.

Thoughts on Kim Kardashian, gay marriage and….marriage

There’s been jokes about the brevity of Hollywood marriages for years now. Britney Spears and her 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander a few years ago still strikes me as incredulous and nothing more than a publicity stunt. It got press, but not much, since it seemed to happen on a whim over the course of a weekend spent partying in Vegas. But it, along with the many other relatively short ‘star’ marriages (usually 2-4 years at most) that continue to happen (and dissolve) among stardom go to underscore a lack of understanding about the seriousness of marriage.

Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to NBA star Kris Humphries has been latched onto by homosexual activists and pro-gay marriage folks as proof that the problem (as purported by conservative politicians and talkshow hosts) is not ‘gay marriage’ eroding the sanctity of marriage.

In part, they are correct.

Gay marriage and the desire of homosexuals to ‘marry’, no-fault divorce, Jada and Will’s open marriage – all of these things aresymptoms of a de-valued view of marriage.  George Takei and Perez Hilton have both commented on their twitter feeds that ‘straight’ people are ruining the institution of marriage just fine without homosexual folks’ help.

Both men have a point – but it’s only a small point. They cannot rightly use Kim’s, Britney’s or any other short-term marriage as THE ‘examples’ of straight marriage that are ruining the sanctity of marriage.   To put it in perspective, one cannot look at Britney Norwood and any other two random black people who commit heinous acts of murder and conclude that they are ‘all’ making it bad for black people as a whole.  Just as Norwood’s actions represent her and not all black people, likewise, Kardashian’s 72-day wedding (with a huge payout for the rights to broadcast the wedding….seems like she just made 18 million dollars easy) doesn’t represent ‘straights’ or ‘heteros’ (as I’ve heard one gay person call us).

Where’d the low view of marriage come from ?

While it’s been the purview of the culture to wax and wane on the sanctity of marriage, it is the responsibility of the church to always uphold it. Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us that marriage itself is a ‘great mystery’ and that this great mystery refers to Christ and His church.  Think of it. Marriage is supposed to be an earthly ‘picture’ of Christ’s relationship to His church.

Marriage was the first societal institution created by God – even before the fall (Genesis 2:25-26).  So, political rhetoric aside, it really is one of the bedrocks and basic institutions of society itself, regardless of what form of government you believe is better (or what form of government you live in).

What happens when the church forgets this fact ? We get adultery allowed and almost encouraged in churches. When the church gives a wink and a nod to a pastor and merely ‘sits him down’ for a bit, but then ‘restores him’ to his previous office (even though 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 CLEARLY state that he must be above reproach – see my comments here), the church’s stance on marriage is taken to be a joke at best and the ‘rantings of clearly repressed individuals who are probably gay themselves’ at worst.  Eddie Long comes to mind immediately.

When we add to it cover-ups by other believers or the simple ‘excusing’ of sin under the guise of ‘grace’ (cheap grace at that) without biblical repentance (and where necessary biblical church discipline which may include excommunication for unrepentant sin), and the church indeed becomes no better than the world.

Notice – I’m not separating marriage and sex in this. God created them to be together, just like one does not get a first down by running off the football field and putting the ball on a parking lot line. We may expect the world to divorce the two – which Paul warned against repeatedly in 1 Cor. 5, 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and many other passages. But scripture never does and believers should renew their thinking to match scripture. Hebrews 13:4 reminds us that God doesn’t consider sex to be a bad thing – it’s undefiled in marriage.  Key words: in marriage.  And God defines what marriage is in Genesis 2. God wrote an entire book on the joy of marriage and sex with Song of Solomon.  God gave section after section of scripture to instruct couples how to deal with each other in marriage and what marriage itself entails (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, etc….) and how and why to avoid temptation toward unfaithfulness (Proverbs 5-7).

When the church abandons these things as foundation and begins to imitate the culture, homosexual folks coming up and trying tocall something that isn’t marriage ‘marriage’, folks trying to call open adultery a form of ‘marriage’ and so on really become commonplace.  And when the church knows these things, but does not support and proclaim them openly, the same thing happens.

Thankfully, there are men like Voddie Baucham, Bob Lepine, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Gary Thomas, organizations like Family Life Today and others that seek to purposely proclaim and present a biblically accurate view of marriage, even in the face of society seeking to do the opposite.  As these men continue to step forth and stand in the gap, may those of us taught by them also take up the charge – not to proclaim what we are against as political pundits often do, but to wisely present a biblical case for what marriage really is and moreso – present the person asking with a view toward their need for a Savior – whether gay or straight (remember: 1 Cor. 6:9-10 treats heterosexual sex outside of marriage the EXACT same as homosexuality).

Happy New Year – So What ?

A little something I wrote three years ago going into 07′.

Thinking Biblically Commentary – January 4, 2007
K. Joel Gilliard

Every year on December 31, great festivals and celebrations around the world are held to ring out the old year and bring in the new year. In fact, starting backwards from December 26th, news broadcasters begin to reflect on past events of the year, who died, who got married and whatever the big news stories of the year that there were.

Many people use this time of year to do their own reflection on the events of the past year in their personal lives. Many make promises to improve themselves in the coming year and as we well know, these things have a tendency not to last.

Many have come to think of New Year’s resolutions as a cliché for ‘Heh. Let’s see how long that lasts.’ People make grandiose claims and promises only to break them before the end of the month (usually within the first 5-15 days of the month).

Now let’s think for a moment. Biblically, if you will.

Is it wrong to reflect over our lives and think on the major events of our lives? Of course not. Is it wrong to make plans for change ? Not at all. Scripture is replete with folks who do these very things – from David in the Psalms to Isaiah in his book.

The problem is our thinking at how to go about accomplishing these ‘resolutions’ that we make. There’s usually two faulty assumptions that go along with most new year’s resolutions-making.

Read the rest here:
Theologically Correct dot Com :: LIVE Your Theology. Blog Archive TBC – 1/06/07- Happy New Year – So What ?

Audio version:

Tethered to my desktop and the Sovereignty of God

Well, it finally happened.

Something went wrong with my MacBook Pro.

Something MAJOR.

But it’s nVida’s fault, not Apple.  Apple is offering replacement repairs for up to 3 years from original purchase date, regardless of if I’m in warranty or not.

Meanwhile, I’ve opened up my MBP, pulled the HD, connected it to my tower via a USB external case and I’m backing it up – AGAIN.

It would happen right NOW – grading due, need to get video and pictures to my future brother-in-law for the wedding and a TON of other information on there…..

Somewhere in this, though, God has this happening NOW for my highest good and for His highest glory (Romans 8:28).  Don’t know why NOW, but I do know that I need to learn to respond correctly…..especially if I *claim* to believe that there are no rouge molecules in the universe.

Don’t you love it when God tests your theology in the practical ?

Ahhh, the blender again!

My favorite term for this time in life.

You ever see those scenes where all of the items in the picture get scrambled around blazingly fast, then they stop and settle and the picture looks completely different ?

So…I’m looking for a new church (and no, I’m not getting into the ‘why’ of it just yet….maybe one day, maybe not, but I’m leaving on good terms….).

I’ll be married in 3 months and some change.

I’ll be moving at the end of June – while my fianceé is in Nashville getting stuff ready, I’ll be moving into OUR apartment and staying there by myself for a week and getting acclimated. So I’m starting to throw things out now….

Grad school is on hold until I pay down an old balance.  This also pushes back my potential graduation date to 2010….but I only have three classes left to do. 🙂

I’m a bit perplexed about my job. I have good students, I’ve done my best to try and get them focused, but they just completely BLEW it this past weekend at band festival.  Should I give up on middle school ? I’ve had two successful years (I’s in sight reading and II’s overall) and now two bad years (a III last year and this year in sight reading and overall).

Work is a pain sometimes. Stressed. Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of things they ask us to do…. and then wonder why it’s not done.

I’ve got more speaking engagements and bible studies lined up in the meantime….so more studying to do.

All this and I keep looking into the eyes of this woman wondering why in the world she still wants to marry me. I’m a hot mess…. she’s even seen my apartment…. and she still wants to marry me.

I’m blessed.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep up with bible reading – even if the only thing I can do is turn on the iPod and listen to Max McClean read to me.  I actually find myself memorizing large portions of scripture that way.

Alive, Kicking and Kicking Some More….(updated)

School year’s back in full swing again.  I’ve been busy with stuff for work….. I’m now department chair for music, team leader for creative arts and doing a LOT more this year to set good things in motion for my band program and the school in general….including taking over the school website (which I will be debuting any day now….).

We have a new principal and he’s a pretty cool dude. As always, new administrations always have bumps and bruises as people adjust to new systems, but it looks like things are heading in the right direction for the school overall. Our 8th grade population seems to be stuck on trying to do as they please like they did last year…. and thankfully, discipline is about 80% consistent on behavior issues.  Teachers also have a lot more administrative support this year, provided they do THEIR jobs.

We have a new electronic grading system, so I’m grading more papers, making more phone calls and doing more things this year.

In regard to my album, I’ve been given some advice by two individuals close to me that I should reconsider – one, because of my age (hip hop is still a ‘young man’s game’)  and the time it will take for me to develop a more mature sound may take a while and two, because of TIME…I keep pushing this thing back and being overwhelmed with other issues.

I’m considering it all, seriously. I’m about to do a mailer to a few trusted friends and brethren in Christ for advice on this one and pray on it some more.  Either way, I’m going to probably just release the songs I’ve already recorded as free downloads and call it a day.  I still DJ, I still make good beats, so I’ll be ‘around’.

Besides, while I do feel that doing a hip hop album is simply an extension of my teaching ability (I could honestly care less about selling more units than necessary to break even and will probably give away more than I ever sell), I may just need to concentrate on framing biblical truth in conversation instead of rhyme.

I’ll be off from grad school for a little bit to catch my breath, then go back in and complete the last two classes. I’m working on a budget…and trying to remain consistent with it. I’ve been blessed in other areas that I’ll let in on as certain times draw nearer 🙂 Just keep a brother in prayer so that he can be consistent in all areas of his life.

Out for now. Probably spend part of that 16-18 weeks doing new videos, typing up stuff LONG overdue and so forth.

Oh, and I even got offered (unofficially) an adjunct position at my alma mater. 🙂 God is good.  Let me get ready for the rest of my renaissance…..

Additionally: Check the latest Thinking Biblically Commentary.  I talk about the election and ‘What if ________ loses ?’

Inspired by the great convos on the 5th.

Enjoy and be blessed.

Video podcast of it coming on Friday night along with an audio/mp3 for the feed on my site.

[CSF] God the All-Seeing One – 3

With a little of the previous post and more added on, here’s Dr. Spurgeon again:

God knows the burial-places of all his people. He notes as well the resting-place of the man who is buried tombless and alone, as the man over whom a mighty mausoleum has been raised. The traveler who fell in the barren desert, whose body became the prey of the vulture, and whose bones were bleached in the sun—the mariner, who was wrecked far out at sea, and over whose corpse no dirge was ever wailed, except the howling of the winds, and the murmuring of the wild waves—the thousands who have perished in battle, unnumbered and unnoticed—the many who have died alone, amid dreary forests, frozen seas, and devouring snow-storms—all these, and the places of their sepulchre, are known to God. That silent grot within the sea, where pearls lie deep, where now the shipwrecked one is sleeping, is marked by God as the death-place of one of his redeemed; that place upon the mountain-side, the deep ravine into which the traveler fell and was buried in a snow-drift, is marked in the memory of God as the tomb of one of the human race.

No body of man, however it may have been interred or uninterred, has passed beyond the range of God’s knowledge. Blessed be his name, if I shall die, and lie where the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep, in some neglected corner of the churchyard, I shall be known as well, and rise as well recognized by my glorious Father, as if interred in the cathedral, where forests of gothic pillars proudly stand erect, and where the songs of myriads perpetually salute high heaven. I shall be known as well as if I had been buried there in solemn pomp, and had been interred with music and with dread solemnities, and I shall be recognized as well as if the marble trophy and the famous pillar had been raised to my remembrance; for God knoweth no such thing as forgetfulness of the burying-places of his children.

Moses sleeps in some spot that eye hath not seen. God kissed away his soul, and he buried him where Israel could never find him, though they may have searched for him. But God knoweth where Moses sleeps; and if he knows that, he understands where all his children are hidden. Ye cannot bell me where is the tomb of Adam; ye could not point out to me the sleeping place of Abel. Is any man able to discover the tomb of Methuselah and those long-lived dwellers in the time before the flood? Who shall tell where the once-treasured body of Joseph now sleeps in faith? Can any of you discover the tombs of the kings, and mark the exact spot where David and Solomon rest in solitary grandeur? No, those things have passed from human recollection, and we know not where the great and mighty of the past are buried; but God knoweth, for death and Hades are open before the Lord.

And again, further, not only does he know the place where they were buried, but he is cognizant of the history of all their bodies after sepulture or after death. It has often been asked by the infidel, “How can the body of man be restored, when it may have been eaten by the cannibal, or devoured by wild beasts?” Our simple reply is, that God can track every atom of it if he pleases. We do not think it necessary to resurrection that he should do so, but if he so willed it, he could bring every atom of every body that hath ever died: although it hath passed through the most complicated machinery of nature, and become entangled in its passage with plants and beasts, yea, and with the bodies of other men, God hath it still within the range of his knowledge to know where every atom is, and it is within the might of his Omnipotence to call every atom from its wandering, and restore it to its proper sphere, and rebuild the body of which it was a part. It is true, we could not track the dust that long since has moldered.

Buried with exactest care, preserved with the most scrupulous reverence, years passed away, and the body of the monarch, which had long slept well guarded and protected, was at last reached by the careless hand. The coffin had moldered, and the metal was broken for the sake of its own value; a handful of dust was discovered, the last relics of one who was master of many nations. That dust by sacrilegious hand was cast in the aisle of the church, or thrown into the churchyard and blown by the winds into the neighboring field. It was impossible for ever to preserve it; the greatest care was defeated; and at last the monarch was on a level with his slave, “alike unknowing and unknown.” But God knows where every particle of the handful of dust has gone: he has marked in his book the wandering of every one of its atoms. He hath death so open before his view, that he can bring all these together, bone to bone, and clothe them with the very flesh that robed them in the days of yore, and make them live again. Death is open before the Lord.

– C.H. Spurgeon
Often, men decry the very teachings in scripture that are designed to bring them comfort and assurance and build their reliance upon God.  Men remove absolute Sovereignty from God because they want to be the masters of their own fate, yet they pray as though He is Sovereignly in control once they come to the end of their own ability.

Men remove from God, His omniscience, because they want to operate as free and self-determining creatures, yet will grant God control over nature and other things and pray for the rain or a hurricane to stop.

How foolish are some of these things. It is evident from every page and passage of scripture that God not only sees all of time and knows all of time intimately down to the smallest subatomic particle, but He is Sovereign over all of time and every event in it. Nothing happens outside of His control – Job was not afflicted one moment more OR less than God permitted Satan to do to him. The famine in Moab that brought Ruth and Naomi back to Jerusalem was done so by the Lord in order for them to be in the right place, married to the right person to become the grandfather and grandmother of David, ancestor of Christ.  Joseph’s ordeal was seen, at the end of his life, to have been brought together and planned by God – it was God who sent him to Egypt….in order for him to save many more lives than just his own (Gen. 45:4-9, 50:20).

As my pastor has repeatedly said, the first teaching in  ‘God 101’ is that God is God. He does as He pleases, according to no other counsel but His own.  He sees everything – the death of every saint, the pain of every heart, the thoughts and motivations of every man….. and while this may bring a sense of dread and fear to the man who realizes his own sinfulness, it should also bring comfort.

God, who is rich in mercy, who sees not only the sins you have done, but the sins that you will do.

And if your faith and trust is in Him, He has already taken away the penalty for it.

Yes, even THAT one.

Your sins aren’t more powerful than God.

Soli Deo Gloria,
K. Joel Gilliard

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